December 8, 2016 / 4:04 PM / a year ago

Is it a taper or isn't it? The ECB says "No"

LONDON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - The European Central Bank says it is not tapering its bond-buying programme, but a lot of people in financial markets reckon it is. Here is the argument:

IT‘S A TAPER

The ECB has been buying bonds at the rate of 80 billion euros a month. As of April next year it will buy them at a rate of 60 billion euros until December.

That is cutting back on the monthly amount being bought.

“The ECB just announced tapering,” ING economists said in a note.

Bond yields initially shot up, as they would if a taper was on the way that would halt ECB purchases.

IT‘S NOT A TAPER

The ECB had been expected to extend its 80 billion-euro asset-purchasing plan for six months - adding up to 480 billion euros. Instead it is buying 60 billion euros each month for an additional nine months - or 540 billion euros.

That is buying more bonds, not fewer.

“There is no question about tapering,” ECB President Mario Draghi said. “Tapering was not discussed today.”

And he went on:

“The word has meanings, several meanings depending on who’s using it. But the way one would look, I mean the natural way to look at a word like that, is to have a policy whereby purchasers would gradually go to zero, and that’s not been discussed or, as a matter of fact, it’s not even been on the table.”

IT‘S A SOMETHING-ELSE TAPER

Analysts have started calling it different things. Seen so far: cautious taper, dovish taper, quasi-taper and technical taper.

And perhaps the clearest yet: a taper that’s not a taper.

Reporting by Jeremy Gaunt, editing by Larry King

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